Authors: Avery James
“Yes,” Evelyn said. “It, like everything else, was very kind.”
“I think I know what’s going on here,” Callie said. “I’ve been set up.”
Evelyn crossed her arms and looked around. “What do you mean?”
“I didn’t arrange all of that, but I know who did.”
“Who?” They both asked in unison.
“A friend of mine. I might have mentioned how sweet you and your husband had been on the flight,” Callie said. “How he tracked you down, I don’t know.” Despite all the teasing and taunting, Logan had gone out of his way to ensure that Henry and Evelyn had a wonderful, extended stay in Newport.
“Who is he?” Evelyn asked. “We’d love to thank him.”
“I don’t know if he’d really want to be thanked.” Callie looked over at Logan. She had to introduce him, right? Would he go through all of that effort for some stupid bet? Of course he would. But why would he ignore her when he was finally about to win?
As the half ended and the crowd spilled out onto the field, Logan knew he’d been caught. Callie had waved him over twice, before he finally relented and started to head over. He had been looking forward to this moment since the morning he had placed his bet with Callie. He had wanted to see the look on her face when she realized that he could, in fact, do nice things for other people. Winning the bet was just going to be a side benefit. But, as he walked over, he felt no excitement. Instead, he dreaded talking to the old couple. He dreaded hearing Callie say nice things about him.
He’d probably tell her that he had set it all up so he could win his bet with her, but that wasn’t completely true. When they had made the bet, Logan hadn’t intended to do anything, but he had been able to tell that it meant a lot to Callie to believe that people really could be happy. And if it only cost him a few calls to a concierge service to set everything up for Henry and Evelyn, what was the harm? They reminded him of his parents in a way. Henry bore no more resemblance to Hank than their shared name, but Evelyn, from a distance reminded him of his mother. Probably any woman her age would, but the way Henry and Evelyn held their arms around each other on Thames Street that morning had been exactly the way his parents leaned against each other whenever they had a moment alone. Logan knew that Hank would have given anything to have one more week or day with his wife.
In truth, both Logan and Hank had been mad at each other for years for not spending enough time with her at the end. They didn’t talk about it, but it was a grief that had kept itself wrapped around Logan’s heart for years, and he knew Hank had been even more shattered by his loss. Even though they barely spoke, Logan wished he could ease his father’s pain. Helping Henry and Evelyn have the honeymoon of their dreams wasn’t going to change that, but Logan figured he could at least give them the happiness his own parents had known. The bet aside, he just wanted them to be happy. He wanted to reassure himself that not every story ended in tragedy. The rest, the bet and all, was a bonus. Callie’s belief in true love would be upheld and he’d find a way to get her to admit he was right.
He watched Callie, down the sideline, smiling and happy. As soon as he reached her, he’d have to pretend to be happy too. Maybe his problem was that he still held out hope that things would work out. If he knew for sure that Callie would be better off without him, this whole thing wouldn’t have been so bad. If it all had been doomed to fail, he wouldn’t feel so bad about sending her away. As he headed over to her, his confidence in his plan started to wane. Maybe he just needed a sign that things were meant to work out, that he and Callie were meant to be together no matter what. Logan scanned the field looking for a sign, and, sure enough, within a minute, he had one. It just wasn’t the one he wanted.
Instead, Veronica Jones was heading straight for him. Logan recognized her the instant she entered his peripheral view.
You’ve got to be kidding me
, he thought. Veronica was smiling and waving to him as if he were her favorite person in the world. Well, she sure wasn’t his. If it wasn’t for her and her goddamn sex tape, maybe he’d have been able to believe that he could change, that he could be the man Callie needed him to be. Just the sight of her made his brain boil. If he had wanted a sign, here it was. His past was inescapable. Logan walked out onto the field toward Veronica, careful to keep her out of earshot of Callie and the old couple. “What do you want?” he asked.
“A number one album. And, I’m taking the steps to make sure I have it, but that’s not the question. I upheld my half of the deal. I waited until your bill passed. Now it’s time to have some fun. Come on, you love
Logan gritted his teeth as he held back from shouting at Veronica. looked over at Callie who was laughing and helping Henry and Evelyn stomp down divots by the sideline. “I can assure you, what I love is so much more than
“Honey,” Veronica said reaching out her hand and placing her index finger over Logan’s lips, “you’re so much better when you’re being bad. Can’t you see that?” Veronica smiled as she watched the look on Logan’s face. “I think this is an opportunity for you, one you’d be foolish to pass up.”
“How could that possible be true? I know exactly what I want, and it doesn’t involve you and your plans.”
Veronica slid her hand over Logan’s shoulder, and he involuntarily tensed at her touch. She squeezed his bicep. “So strong,” she said, “but you lack a different kind of strength.” She winked at him. “Trust me on that one. You’ve never worked for anything in your life. It’s part of your appeal.”
“I will do whatever it takes to make sure you leave her out of this,” Logan said. He pulled Veronica’s hand off of his arm and scowled at her. He didn’t know whether to feel angry or defeated. He knew Veronica was right. He didn’t deserve Callie. He hadn’t earned her love or affection or whatever it was they were calling their connection, and he wouldn’t be able to keep it.
Veronica leaned over and looked around Logan to get a better look at Callie. “That’s so cute. You really think that the two of you have a chance. I’ll give you one thing, she’s cute. Not beautiful. Not sexy, but cute. You never struck me as one to settle. Maybe her whole uptight Washington thing is the appeal. If that’s the case, just think of how things will be once you’re famous for your exploits. Think of all the stuck-up Washington types you could have tripping over themselves to try to tame you, to fix you. Why settle for this one when you can have all of them? And why do you care about your image all of a sudden?”
“I don’t. You can make everyone in the world hate me, for all I care, but leave her out of this.”
Veronica smiled. Usually her smile looked fake, rehearsed, thin, but this smile was genuine, spread wide across her face as she looked on at the mess she had made with complete pride. “Sounds like I have you sufficiently motivated.”
“Why do you even need me for this?” Logan asked. “You have a tape. I have no say. Do you want money, is that it? I can give you money.”
“I don’t want your money. I want my money. Unlike you, I don’t need the handout.”
Logan clenched his jaw. “Leave. Now, before I make a really dumb decision.”
Veronica reached out and patted his cheek. “Tut tut,” she said. “Down, boy. I don’t need you beating me up in front of all of these cameras. The whole thing works better if you play along and we build to our scandal. A few tabloid articles, a picture or two on TMZ, and we’ll have primed the pump for the video. I won’t be a sweet little thing anymore, and my record sales will skyrocket.”
“Again, I’m not seeing any benefit for me in this deal,” Logan said.
“Well, I guess it matters on what you want most. Do you want to play house with goldilocks over there, or do you want to save her from, how did you put it, public and professional disgrace?”
“Nikki, I’m warning you. Leave her out of this.”
“I hadn’t planned on screwing her over, but I think I’m going to enjoy that part the most,” Veronica said.
“Do you enjoy stabbing people in the back?” Logan asked.
Veronica grinned again. She reached down and started fiddling with Logan’s collar. “I enjoy twisting the knife,” she said. “She got in my way, and now I’m getting her out of it. Play ball, and maybe she survives the whole thing.”
“How do I know you’re not bluffing?”
Veronica pursed her lips and batted her eyelashes. “Logan, I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she said, channeling her inner Callie as sweetly as possible and holding back her laugh until the last word. “You think you’re in love with her, don’t you?”
Logan closed his eyes for a second. He didn’t want to look at the venomous glee in Veronica’s eyes, and he didn’t want to turn around and look at Callie’s happiness behind him. He just wanted to find some way to fix things. “If I do this, will you leave her alone?” he asked.
“That’s more like it,” Veronica said, turning and smiling toward Callie. She waved to her. “My advice: enjoy the next few days together. It was never going to last between you two anyway. You and me, we are what we are. Even if you think you’re going to be all noble and save her, it doesn’t change the facts. Sooner or later, you’re going to break her heart, and I might as well be the beneficiary.”
“Get out of here, now,” Logan said.
“Don’t worry, lover,” Veronica said sarcastically, “I’ll be in touch soon. We’ll see if my news is good or bad.”
“So Callie tells us that you’re the wonderful young man responsible for our vacation here in Newport,” Henry said holding his hand out to Logan.
“It’s nothing,” Logan said. He quickly shook Henry’s hand. He shifted his weight back and forth and looked down at the ground, avoiding eye contact with the old couple.
. He had spent the past week lying to Callie. He had threatened to end the political career of one of his closest friends. He had gotten in a shouting match with his father, and these two wanted to call him wonderful? He was anything but wonderful. He was bad. He was lowly, and he was worse than he had ever been. Just two days ago, he had almost gotten Callie arrested, and now this old couple, who really did seem like wonderful people themselves, wanted to praise him just because he was rich and wanted to win a bet with a pretty girl?” Logan felt sick to his stomach. His run-in with Veronica had convinced him that he had no way to make things work. The past was past, and now he needed to face the truth. “I’m just glad that the two of you were able to enjoy your time in Newport as much as I’ve enjoyed having Callie here.”
Callie slipped her arm around her waist and pressed her cheek against his shoulder.
Don’t do that
, Logan wanted to say. He didn’t want to feel her comfort. He didn’t want her to tell him that he was good at heart, and that all he needed was to believe in himself. It was bullshit, all of it. All of this was spinning out of control because of him. The bill was going to become a law in a matter of hours, and Callie was going to either leave him or ruin any chance she had at building a career and a life for herself. Logan just wanted to go home and forget about all of this. As soon as the bill passed, Veronica would pounce into action and release the sex tape. God, he had a sex tape and these people wanted to shake his hand. If they only knew what he was really like, they’d turn and flee.
“Logan, is everything ok?” Callie asked.
“Yeah, it’s good. I just wasn’t expecting to run into Nikki. That’s all.” He studied the expression on Callie’s face. Did she believe him? Maybe it would be better if she didn’t. A dull pain throbbed behind his eyes. This was supposed to be a good day, the day where he gave her everything she wanted. Instead, his past was butting in at every turn. “Maybe we should go,” he said. He looked over at the far sideline to see which, if any, photographers had focused in on him. Nikki was famous for picking favorites among the paparazzi and getting them to do her dirty work for her.
Logan tried to piece everything together. A few photos of Logan and Veronica, paired with the tape, would be enough to get everything started, and if Veronica wanted to keep things going, a few photos of Logan and Callie would only help fuel the fire. “Maybe we should go,” he repeated. He turned to Henry. “Would you mind coming with me?” he asked. “I need to check on something back at the car. You wouldn’t happen to like vintage convertibles, would you?”
“I’ve liked them since they were new,” Henry said with a smile. “Although, I never had much of an opportunity to see them up close. We were a station wagon kind of family. A little two-seater wasn’t exactly in the cards for us.”
“If you excuse us, Ladies, we’ll be right back,” Logan said. He and Henry cut through the crowd and started heading to the car. Logan looked back and forth across the crowd, looking for anyone who might be in league with Veronica. Once he got back past the concession tent and over to the stone wall that separated the spectator area from the dirt road down to the field where he had parked, Logan found what he was looking for. Two men, cameras in hand, were camped out next to his car. So that was her plan, a paparazzi ambush as he and Callie left?
“Well, Henry,” Logan said. “Today is your lucky day. How would you like to trade your rental car for that vintage corvette right over there?” Logan pointed out the car and watched the old man’s eyes light up.
“That’s too much,” Henry said, but his eyes showed his true excitement.
“You’d be doing me a favor,” Logan said. “See those men? They’re waiting to snap pictures of me for some gossip magazine.”
“Why would they want to do that?” Henry asked.
“Someone is trying to create a story about me, and I think they want pictures of Callie and me leaving here together to help finish that story.”